Yesterday afternoon was the best fun. 20 odd-children (that’s ‘about 20 children’, not ‘Twenty Odd Children’) here in Laroque spent the day in England, courtesy of ‘Découverte Terres Lointaines’, without setting foot outside town.
These children spend their Wednesdays, a no-school day, at the Centre de Loisirs. Their parents are probably out at work, and here is somewhere they can spend the day having purposeful fun, without its costing their parents too much.
We turned up with bag full of groceries, and spent half the morning baking biscuits, basic English everyday crunchy biscuits. It was great to see them, girls and boys alike carefully measuring out flour, sugar, butter and so on, stirring, mixing, watching a dough come together from these simple ingredients.
A bag full of cutters and a rolling pin meant that they could transform the mixture into stars and circles, miniature gingerbread-style people, bells and flowers.
Upstairs, another group had been talking about the green moorlands of the Yorkshire Dales, then making a mural of a Daleside landscape, complete with Swaledale sheep, farm gates, and obligatory grey cloud (it’s England after all).
Lunch break. Afterwards, the children came to see our long-prepared exhibition looking at North Yorkshire, which has so many features in common with the Ariège: mountains (OK, the best Yorkshire can manage is Whernside’s 736 metres. Ariège’s Pic d’Estats is 3143m); textile and mining industries past their glory days; wide open spaces home only to sheep…. and so on. They enjoyed an extract from Roald Dahl’s ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’, and then it was back to the Centre de Loisirs. Where we produced a long skipping rope with the idea of teaching them a couple of English skipping games…
‘I like coffee, I like tea
I’d like, er, Nadine, to jump with me’.
They loved it. Unfortunately they couldn’t skip at all and tripped and fell all over the place, and all the adults mourned that it was a lost art. As in England (Is that so? Not sure.) children don’t skip any more.
Back into the kitchen, it was time to decorate those biscuits. They tinted their bowls of icing in lurid shades, and made free with all the sugary decorations we provided. ‘Glorious Technicolor’ doesn’t begin to do it justice. Once decorated, they ate the lot, and we sent them off to their parents for the evening crammed full of enough e-numbers to see them through the week. One lad, as he set off home, was heard to say ‘I’ve had a great day’. So had we.